Yes and no. Let’s talk about Realtors versus real estate agents.
What’s the Difference Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent?
Sometimes people use the term “Realtor” to describe any real estate agent, but actually, a Realtor has a specific meaning in the real estate world. A Realtor is an agent who has paid to join a national or local Realtor association.
In addition to the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, almost every state and local market has its own Realtor association. Realtors must follow a code of ethics that is stricter than the state real estate laws for agents and can face discipline from their association if they violate that code.
Additionally, Realtor associations often provide useful services to agents like contract forms (in states where contracts are not promulgated), access to the MLS, data about local market trends, opportunities for networking and training, additional professional certifications, and more.
So while many agents choose to join Realtor associations and become Realtors, it’s not a type of license. It’s a membership in an organization.
Getting a Real Estate License
Of course, to join a Realtor association, you first have to earn your real estate license. That’s where Aceable comes in! Aceable offers pre-licensing courses for many states, including:
How to Get a Real Estate License
The exact process for getting a license will depend on the state where you live, but the general process looks like this:
Make sure you qualify. Most states require applicants to be at least 18 years old, and some require U.S. citizenship and/or a high school diploma. Check the requirements first if you’re not sure!
Take a pre-licensing education course. These vary in length from 40 hours to 168 hours depending on your state. You’ll have to pass an end-of-course exam after completing the coursework.
Submit an application. Different states have different requirements for the application. Some may want fingerprints, and most have an application fee. If you have an arrest record, you may be required to provide additional documentation with your application.
Pass the state exam. Most states require paying an exam fee in addition to the application fee. When you’re shopping for pre-licensing courses, see what kind of exam prep resources they offer and factor that into your purchase decision. Some of these state exams are tough!
Register with a sponsoring broker. The license you’ll get at first is called a “salesperson” or “preliminary broker” license. Even with the license, you’ll be unable to practice real estate unless you’re supervised by someone with broker license (in some states this type of license is called “sponsoring broker,” “supervising broker,” or “broker-in-charge”). You’ll need to register with a broker before your license can be activated.
Becoming a Realtor
After you finish your pre-licensing education, pass the state exam, and find your sponsoring broker, you’ll be ready to officially become a Realtor. While joining a Realtor association isn’t a requirement, most agents find Realtor associations to be a useful tool.
You can talk to your broker about which association to join for your area.
How Much Does It Cost?
Realtor association dues are paid annually. For 2022 and 2023, NAR dues are $150 per member, plus a special assessment of $35 in 2022 and $45 in 2023. Those dues go to pay for all of the programming, advocacy, and research NAR provides to its members. NAR also operates a legal fund to help members pay legal fees.
Local Realtor associations will have their own annual dues. The cost ranges widely depending on where you are. Most typically dues are $150-$300, but some places the cost goes up to $1,000 per year. Whether or not that makes sense for you and your career is up to you!
The Code of Ethics
As previously mentioned, Realtors are required to follow the NAR Code of Ethics, a system of behavior and best practices for ethical behavior as an agent. It has rules for treating clients, customers, and other agents; advertising; competition; fair housing; and more.
Additionally, NAR includes the categories of sexuality and gender presentation as protected fair housing classes, even though they are not protected classes in the federal Fair Housing Act.
Is It Worth the Money?
Whether or not it’s worth it to become a Realtor is 100% up to you (though your broker might have feelings about it, too). In many areas, access to lawyer-approved contracts and the MLS are must-haves, so joining is a no-brainer.
Additionally, many people find that the “Realtor” name carries weight with clients. Whether they are aware of the additional ethical responsibilities of a Realtor, they trust the designation. Ultimately, it’s your call!
Ready to get started on your journey to Realtor? Find your pre-licensing course today.